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Humans · Economy

Start up to start over

April 30th, 2015
in:Humans, Economy
by:Cherotich Kenei
located in:Kenya
tags:entrepreneurship, Freddie Gitari, Kambua, Kente, Kenya, Kitenge, Maasai print, nailab, shoes, start up, Victoria Rubadiri

Incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces and technology hubs have sprung up all across Africa. Many of them prove to be the better alternative compared to the development aid practiced for many decades. We spoke to four Kenyan entrepreneurs who made a start up to start over.

FREDDIE GITARI - Young Freddie

The inspiration for the Kenyan designer brand "YoungFreddie" came from Freddie Gitari's desire to promote local fashion that can compete on an international level. 

fairplanet: Why did you choose to be in the line of business you are in?

Freddie Gitari: 

I chose to be a fashion designer by following the passion I have for fashion. Well, After observing how Kenyan designers were doing their thing in Fashion industry, I noticed apart from clothes and bags there was no shoes made out of Ankara, Kitenge, Kente, Maasai print and many other Fabrics all drawn across the continent, I love shoes so I decided to take the footwear designing path.

Furthermore, the product can also be pivoted to solve visibility related problems in mines, for road workers or in fashion and entertainment.

How has the journey towards your success been?

I can’t say Young Freddie is there yet, we still learning and making progress in the Fashion industry as other entrepreneurs.

As I was starting it wasn’t easy for me at all but passion kept me going on. The journey has been with lots of ups and downs in which we all learned from where we go wrong and what we do right. It was until Sam Gichuru introduced me to nailab. That was a huge turn around for me in that I learnt the business side of what I was doing and what I still do to-date.

What are some of the achievements and challenges you have faced?

Our Major achievements have been shipping our products to both countries, the United States and Europe, dressing internationally known celebrities such as Kambua, Victoria Rubadiri among others.

Do you feel that the role of incubation hubs is aiding develop the next generation of Entrepreneurs in Africa?

Yes, it is in Incubation hubs where people from slums like me get to learn the business part of their talents and gifts, also they grow in terms of acquiring knowledge of the market industry they are, which helps in reducing the unemployment rate in the continent.

Another useful thing in incubations is that like-minded people surround you. They may be in your team or running other businesses. The advantage is that they can share experiences that would be helpful to a particular situation you’re struggling in your business.

What plans do you have for the future?

I am planning to create more job opportunities in the society as we build a global shoe brand.

Do you feel that the role of incubation hubs is aiding develop the next generation of Entrepreneurs in Africa?

Incubation hubs play a vital role in the success of an idea until a startup. In such a program you learn the essential skills in running a business. These are skills that would take you years to learn while trying to run a business.

Another useful thing in incubations is that you are surrounded by like-minded people. They may be in your team or running other businesses. The advantage is that they can share experiences that would be helpful to a particular situation you’re struggling in your business.

An incubator also assists you to acquire funding and connect with potential investors where you benefit from the investments.

To these facts, incubators are churning the next gen millionaires and world-class solutions to the problems in the societies.

What plans do you have for the future?

I plan to expand the company to emerging countries in Africa and all over the world. The problem I am solving and the technology I’m using is universal. This presents an opportunity to scale in other countries.

More to see about Freddie and his shoe brand 
Facebook
Website

LEILA KHALIF - TasKwetu

TasKwetu is an Online task management and tracking platform that is designed for task creators to easily get tasks done fast, reliably and affordably.

fairplanet: Why did you choose to create Taskwetu?

Leila Khalif: We got the idea from people whom we have interacted with, stories from television and several personal accounts. They all indicated that Kenyans in the diaspora have been conned out of their life savings by people they trust. This painful experience made them think twice about investing back home.

This experience made them ask their friends or relatives to help out, but the reality is, they had their 8am to5pm jobs and their personal affairs to manage as well. Secondly, let’s face it, with this trying economy, it is expensive and time consuming for Kenyans in the Diaspora to keep travelling back and forth just to run their errands.

So my partner and I thought an independent body that helps them realise their investments through transparency would solve these problems. That’s how we came to be.

How has the journey been?

It has definitely has not been an easy journey as we have been forced to give up part of our social life but we aren’t worried about that too much. We know the fruits of our labour will come soon. Both our families, mentors and friends have been very supportive. They have guided us through our ups and downs in running a business through their vast experience.

What are some of the achievements and challenges you have faced?

One of our biggest achievements is being accepted at the Nailab Accelerator Ltd hub. They were and continue to be extremely supportive in our journey. Our second achievement is being the pioneer for the industry/market we are serving i.e an errand running company for both local and Diaspora Kenyas

Our biggest challenge is gaining trust from our Kenyans in the Diaspora. We can’t really blame them because of all the conning and losses they have experienced therefore their reaction is expected. However, we have strategies aimed at dealing with this issue and so far they seem to be working well for us

Do you feel incubation hubs helping African development?

Ye I do. We are a product of Nailab Accelerator Ltd. Based on our 6 months incubation period with the community; they have contributed a great deal in helping Taskwetu achieve its dreams. We have been able to: gain training and vast knowledge on how to run a business, acquisition of capital and extensive networking opportunities. The programmes being offered by Nailab and other similar incubation hub is definitely going to make an impact on the next generation of entrepreneurs in Africa.

What future plans?

Our major concern and priority is building relationships with our customers and giving them perfect peace of mind that their affairs back in their home country will be managed professional and conveniently.

Like any business, my partner and I also plan to scale extensively. We are targeting major towns in Kenya and eventually the entire African continent.

More on Taskwetu
Facebook
Website 

JOSHUA MUTUA - Keja Hunt

Keja is Kiswahili for house. Thus in Kejahunt literally translates to house hunting. Therefore Kejahunt is a company that helps one find houses and room-mates here in Kenya.

Why did you choose to be in the line of business you’re in?

I faced a problem dealing with real estate and housing agents when trying to find a house. Having been conned a number of times, I knew there must be a better way to find houses.

How has the journey towards your success been?

Rocky best sums it up. There have been quite a number of challenges but all in all we’ve had a good support system that’s enabled us to persevere.

What are some of the achievements and challenges you have faced?

Achievements: We won The Next Big Thing Kenya, semi-finalists in Pivot East Africa

Challenges: The lack of capital. This was a bit hard to come by before we could make revenues through our customers.

Do you feel that the role of incubation hubs is developing Africa?

Yes.

What is your future plans?

We want to improve the Kenyan house hunting process even further.

More to read about Keja Hunt
Website 
Facebook 

CHARLES MUNENE - CladLight

CladLight is a company that presents a solution to increase visibility for motor bikes users day or night. This is through fitting wearable electronics on the ordinary reflective jacket worn by the motorcycle rider. Thus aiming to save lives using wearable technology

fairplanet: Why did you choose to create clad light outfits?

Charles Munene: I’m passionate in solving problems using engineering. Having studied electrical and electronics engineering in the university, I have a fair knowledge of how to solve a challenge using electronics where applicable.

Thus I resolved to reduce the number of visibility-related motorcycle accidents in our country by increasing the visibility of the motorcyclists. I made a safety vest with bright lights at the back that act as an elevated indication system. The lights are controlled wirelessly from the motorcycle’s indication system and clearly show the intent of the rider to turn left, right or to brake. 

How has the journey towards your success been?

First, I wouldn’t say I’m successful. There is a huge journey in turning an idea into a business. Implementation is the key differentiator between success and failure. I’ve gathered a lot of information on entrepreneurship along the way. One key thing I’ve learnt is to, engage the end users in the product that you’re making. Sitting in an office and thinking what is required doesn’t cut it. You need to do a thorough market research so as to fulfil the needs of the customers using your product or service.

What are some of the achievements and challenges you have faced?

I have successfully conducted a pilot test with ‘bodaboda’ (Kiswahili for motorcyclists) operators in and out of the Nairobi municipal. This has helped me gather credible and useful information in the development of the product. I have also been able to come up with an industrial design of the product. This means that the product is ready for mass production.

The challenges encountered include, finding hardware (electronic) solutions that are relatively new to our country. Most people shy away from creating such solutions and hide under software development. Additionally, most components required to come up with an electronic solution have to be imported to the country and this doesn’t come in cheap. This contributes largely to low adoption of hardware solutions and start-ups in the country.

Do you feel that the role of incubation hubs in Africa is aiding to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs?

Incubation hubs play a vital role in the success of an idea and later start-ups. In such a program you learn the essential skills in running a business. These are skills that would take you years to learn while trying to run a business.

Another useful thing in incubations is that like-minded people surround you. They may be in your team or running other businesses. The advantage is that they can share experiences that are helpful to a particular situation you’re struggling in your business. An incubator also assists you to acquire funding and connect with potential investors. Thus, incubators are churning the next gen millionaires and world-class solutions to the problems in the societies.

What plans do you have for the future?

I plan to expand the company to emerging countries in Africa and all over the world. The problem I am solving and the technology I’m using is universal. This presents an opportunity to scale in other countries. The product can also be pivoted to solve visibility related problems in mines, road workers, runner’s even fashion and entertainment.

More to read about 
Facebook 
Website 

Article written by:
Cherotich Kenei
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
Freddie Gitari, creator of his Kenyan designer brand \'Young Freddie\'
Freddie Gitari, creator of his Kenyan designer brand "Young Freddie"
Freddie Gitari makes shoes using African prints and fabrics.
Leila Khalif
Leila Khalif
© BIZ HUBS
How Leila Khalif started Taskwetu.
Joshua Mutua
Joshua Mutua
Charles Munene
Charles Munene
Charles about ClaLight

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